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August 29, 2007

In This Update
  • HIV Transmission
  • HIV in the U.S. News
  • HIV Treatment & Complications
  • Alcohol, Drug Use & HIV
  • HIV Outside the U.S.

    HIV Myths Put Through the Wringer
    Can HIV crawl through your clothing? Does it hide in public swimming pools? We all know the answers to these questions: No! However, many people still don't know the truth, or choose not to believe it. In this podcast interview with the National Public Radio program News & Notes, Dr. Luther Virgil from the Integrated Minority AIDS Network discusses -- and dispels -- some of the myths surrounding HIV. (Web highlight from National Public Radio)

    For more on the myths surrounding HIV and HIV transmission, browse The Body's collection of articles.

    Male Circumcision Has Little Effect on Women's HIV Risk, Study Says
    We've heard many stories lately about how male circumcision can dramatically reduce a guy's risk of getting HIV from a woman during unprotected sex. That's all well and good, but what does it mean for women? If an HIV-positive man has his pencil sharpened, does that make sex safer for an HIV-negative woman? A new African study has found somewhat mixed results, but suggests that circumcision may have a small protective benefit for women who are already at high risk for HIV. (Web highlight from

    HIV-Positive Men Most Contagious Three to Four Weeks After Infection, Study Says
    HIV viral load in semen is highest -- and HIV-positive men are therefore most contagious -- three to four weeks after they've been infected, according to researchers from the United States and Malawi. The researchers also note that viral load climbs again in semen when a man's CD4 count drops to very low levels. The research confirms earlier studies finding that people with very early- and very late-stage HIV are driving the HIV epidemic. (Web highlight from

    Click here to read the abstract of this study, which appears in the Aug. 20 edition of the journal AIDS.

    A Closer Look at HIV in the U.S. Latino Community
    Although Hispanics only accounted for about 13 percent of the U.S. population in 2000, they made up 18 percent of all new HIV diagnoses and 19 percent of people living with HIV in 2005, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read this fact sheet to learn more about the HIV epidemic in the U.S. Latino community, which includes a look at cultural norms that have been linked to increased HIV risk, the most common ways HIV is spread among Latinos, and current prevention efforts.



    Civil Rights Groups Demand Investigation of HIV-Positive Inmate's Death
    Two civil rights groups are asking the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to investigate why a transgender, HIV-positive 23-year-old who died at a California immigration detention center was denied vital medical treatment. As Victoria Arellano died, her fellow inmates pleaded for the staff to provide her with appropriate medical care, according to Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. Since her death, 20 inmates who signed a petition demanding better treatment for Arellano have been transferred to other facilities, leading some to wonder whether officials are trying to cover up what happened.

    Black Medical Association Calls for Federal Action to Stem the AIDS Epidemic
    HIV rates continue to soar among African Americans compared to other racial groups: They make up only 12 percent of people in the United States, but 49 percent of people in the country living with HIV. Increasingly, important groups are taking notice. For instance, the National Medical Association, which represents 30,000 black physicians, is demanding the federal government take action. At the group's national convention this week, the association's president, Dr. Albert W. Morris Jr., called for universal HIV testing, particularly for inmates leaving prisons. "Most people are responsible once they know they have the virus, but, if they don't know, they may be engaging in high-risk behavior," he argued.



    Early HIV Treatment May Be Beneficial, Even at High CD4 Count
    Should you start HIV treatment even if your CD4 count is above 350? What if it's above 500? New results from a huge British study could reshape the "when to start" debate. The study involved more than 17,000 people who had never taken HIV meds. It found that, even among people with a CD4 count well over 350, the higher the count, the less likely they were to develop an AIDS-related illness or die. However, the overall health risk for people with a CD4 count over 350 was still low. Also, since nobody in the study was taking HIV meds, researchers couldn't weigh the risk of HIV medication side effects against the risk of getting sick while not taking meds. (Web highlight from

    Marijuana and Marinol: Both Give You the Munchies
    Lost your appetite? Whether it's due to HIV, HIV meds or the psychological effects of living with a life-threatening disease, many people with HIV lose the desire to eat. To help get a person's stomach rumbling again, doctors use a range of options, including medical marijuana (which is still illegal and hard to access in many states) and Marinol (dronabinol), an artificially produced pill that has some similarities to marijuana. A small New York study suggests that choosing which treatment to use is largely a matter of personal preference: Both marijuana and Marinol appeared to work about the same at improving appetite in HIVers. (Web highlight from the Journal of AIDS)

    Hepatitis C and HIV: A Survivor's Guide
    As many as one in three people with HIV in the United States have to keep their eye on a second viral foe: hepatitis C. Hepatitis C coinfection multiplies the issues people with HIV have to think about. Will HIV treatment harm the liver? How does hep C affect HIV, and vice versa? The answers aren't always clear, even to the experts. However, this chapter from Living With Hepatitis C: A Survivor's Guide provides a solid overview of what we know so far about the HIV/hepatitis C double whammy.



    Alcohol Use May Lower Your CD4 Count if You're Off Meds, Study Shows
    The effects of heavy alcohol use by someone with HIV may be much more serious than a hangover, according to a new study. Boston University researchers found that heavy drinking (generally defined as having more than 14 drinks per week) among HIVers who aren't on meds is associated with a lower CD4 count. For HIVers who drank heavily and were on meds, the researchers did not see a decrease in CD4 count or an increase in viral load. However, they pointed out that alcohol use might hurt a person's ability to take HIV medications regularly. (Web highlight from Science Daily)

    Click here to read the abstract of this study, which appears in the August edition of the Journal of AIDS.

    Meth Use High Among Gay Men in North Carolina, Study Says
    Gay men in North Carolina have joined their counterparts around the United States in the epidemic of methamphetamine use, according to a new study. Researchers found that nearly 6 percent of gay men in the study had used meth in the past 30 days. Meth users were not only more likely to have HIV, but also to use condoms inconsistently and have a history of sexually transmitted diseases. The researchers note that HIV rates are higher in the southeastern United States than in other parts of the country. (Web highlight from NATAP)

    Stay tuned for our next installment of This Month in HIV later this week, which will focus on crystal meth and its impact on the HIV pandemic.



    Girls, Women Forced Into Commercial Sex Work in Asia, at High Risk for HIV, Report Says
    In Asia, girls and women are being forced into commercial sex work, which puts them at high risk for becoming HIV positive and spreading the virus to others, according to a United Nations report. The report recommends that governments combine their efforts to fight sex trafficking and HIV by tackling issues such as gender inequality, violence, poverty and a lack of education. The report was released at the 8th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, which also focused on the impact of stigma on HIV prevention and the importance of making inexpensive, generic HIV medications available in developing countries.

    New Gender and Sexuality Resource Kit for Community Workers in Developing World
    "Keep the Best, Change the Rest" is a tool kit designed to help HIV organizations, educators and community workers in the developing world to address gender and sexuality issues. The kit, which you can order online or download for free, contains group activities aimed at helping men and women of different ages explore how gender and sexuality affect their lives, and to identify changes they could make to improve their relationships and sexual health. (Web highlight from International HIV/AIDS Alliance)

    Also Worth Noting

    Connect With Others
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    "Sexual Assault, HIV and Starting Treatment"
    (A recent post from the
    "Living With HIV" board)

    "In late January of 2006, I was a male victim of sexual assault. I went to a local urgent care [facility], and they advised me to get an HIV test. ... The test results for RNA came back positive. The ELISA test came back negative. I started clinical trials at Duke, with viral load of 1,500 in February, and have been undetectable since that test, with CD4 always averaging around 550-600. I started Truvada and Sustiva in March of 2006. ... Did starting medicine early really accomplish anything? With the medicine started early, is there any way that maybe my body "shedded" the virus? ...

    "I have tried moving on, but sometimes it's hard to forget all that has happened and focus on daily life. I think about how I will ... tell my wife when I marry, my kids, etc. ... Why don't the police pursue this? Are there any Web sites that offer support?"

    -- bigdog2007

    Click here to join this discussion thread, or to start your own!

    Listen to the Latest
    Research From IAS 2007

    Photo Collage of HIV Experts at IAS 2007

    Get the latest info on HIV-related research straight from the researchers! We interviewed a wide range of HIV experts at the 4th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2007), which took place from July 22 to July 25 in Sydney, Australia. More than two dozen podcast interviews are now available, along with full transcripts!

    From conference wrap-ups to summaries of individual studies, our IAS 2007 podcast index is the place to look for audio recaps straight from Sydney. Full transcripts of most interviews are now available!

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the August 2007 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "A Bloody Bitch With Egg on Her Face," 1994; Jerome Caja
    Visit the August 2007 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, curated by Arnold J. Kemp, is a dedication to the works of Jerome Caja and David Cannon Dashiell, HIV-positive artists who died in the 1990s.